THE BLOG

From 'Mad Men' to Digital Scientists: How Big Data Is Shifting the Ad Landscape

09/13/2013 03:18 pm ET

The traditional advertising techniques we once knew have changed dramatically in the digital age. Long gone are the days of print campaigns, television ad buys, radio commercials with a call to action like "Stop by today!" as they stand on their own. Like most other things in the world today, our online social lives have manipulated the advertising process in such a way that campaigns must now be completely immersive or risk being overlooked. A commonly heard call to action is now "Visit us at Facebook.com/x."

The advertising landscape having long made the transformation into digital, has massively shifted again as advertising giants, Omnicom and Publicis, announced their merger earlier this month making it the world's largest agency. Both companies hope the merger will allow them to be better equipped in an industry dominated by data analysis and automated ad buying. There are 7 billion people in this world and 6 billion of them have mobile phones. It's no wonder that data collection one of, if not the, major contributing factors in this merger.

Although it may seem like consumers cannot possibly be more connected than they already are, the fact is that we are becoming increasingly connected each second -- infinitely exchanging information continuously with absolutely no end in sight. This obsession with sharing is a watershed for advertising agencies that can harness it and success is measured by reaching the right people and making them buy. Without the proper collection and analysis of this information, anyone not participating is behind the curve; unable to appropriately and acutely target those who are most likely to make a purchase. This information provides advertisers the ability to serve up highly customized and super effective ads; these ads are often also less expensive since there is rarely a message that goes unheard by the targeted audience.

This change in the ad space has shifted focus from the once coveted Madison Avenue 'Mad Men' creatives to data scientists and engineers to invent new technologies to perfect digitally driven ads. In the days of traditional advertising, there were far fewer channels through which to reach targeted audiences (consisting primarily of TV, magazines, newspaper, and radio) and reaching them required enormous, overarching campaigns. A costly ad buy on one or more major networks would be considered the most successful; reaching the most people but still knowing only the most basic of information regarding how many viewers are actually watching and their demographics.

The paradigm has shifted now to one where there are an ever increasing number of channels through which to reach people and with it comes a massively growing market to reach. We now need to know consumers' buying patterns, where they shop, how much they spend, what they need in their lives, where they hang out, what they do for fun, etc. With these non-traditional channels, the emphasis and resources are focused on targeting and reaching the right people -- Big Data is the strongest tool available allowing advertisers to do this and reduces the likelihood that their message will fall on deaf ears.

So while messaging still remains of the utmost importance, knowing and understanding the desires of the targeted audience is absolutely invaluable to advertisers, which is what has led Publicis and Omnicom to join forces. The profound change in consumer behavior: The willingness to outright claim what it is that they want, what they like, and what they need from brands paired with their constant desire to connect and be heard is the driving force behind the value in Big Data. These ad giants will now be competing amongst the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter -- the companies gathering and mining this precious data.

This data-intensive world has introduced competitors that aren't ad agencies but rather technology powerhouses. The merger won't make Publicis Ominicom one of them, but it will however grant it the size it will need to accommodate Big Data crunching. Publicis and Omnicom believe that clients will love that the merger has essentially created a one-stop-shop where data mining and ad buys can pinpoint audiences flawlessly.

The Publicis and Omnicom merger is certainly proof of the clout Big Data holds and is the first of many shifts in the industry where we will see data.